Don’t despair, it’s the moment you’ve have all been eagerly waiting for: my arts & culture wrap-up of the last three months. Without further ado, I give thee an overview of all the art & culture-related things I’ve done, seen and discovered between April and June 2015. Obviously I hope this will inspire you, but if you have any recommendations for me, please leave me a comment below the post! Whilst writing this post, it appeared that I had done quite a lot this term so have split it in two parts making it easier for you to digest. Happy reading!
Arts April kicked off gently with an ‘in conversation’ with award-winning film makers Ian & Jane (20,000 Days on Earth) on a Saturday morning at art gallery Kate MacGarry in Shoreditch. While munching away on fresh croissants and sipping orange juice we sat down to hear all about their careers and the TV wall curated by them, Idiot Box (a reference to popular TV culture) that showed short films by ten different artists. Shortly afterwards it was off to the Netherlands for a short family visit. We went to The Hague for the day to see two exhibitions at the Gemeentemuseum: Belgian artist Berlinde de Bruyckere and Dutch photographer/film director Anton Corbijn. I had never seen such a big exhibition with so many of Berlinde de Bruyckere’s works and was very pleased to have made it to The Hague to see it. For those who don’t know her work, the key themes in her sculptures are the human body, the flesh and suffering of the body. Her work is not only ‘raw’ and primal, but also very well-executed. From a distance it may appear that a sculpture is just one big mess of layers and layers of melted candle wax, but step closer and admire the fine details of the hands, feet and other body parts and you will find that these look hauntingly realistic!
Anton Corbijn is an internationally celebrated pop photographer/video director and is most famous for his work with Joy Division, U2, Nirvana and Depeche Mode. Nowadays he’s also a film director and has three feature length films to his name: Control (2007), The American (2010) and A Most Wanted Man (2014). Not many people realise he also directed the stunning video for Nirvana’s Heart-Shaped Box. Here‘s a great anecdote from Anton about working with Kurt Cobain on this video (scroll down in the article).
I knew he had worked with a lot of famous musicians and artists, but to see all their portraits in the gallery was rather overwhelming! This is just one of the rooms of this massive retrospective.
Anton did a hilarious portrait series of himself dressed up as celebrities. Here he is as Kurt Cobain.
Funny enough I have spent a few days with Anton when he was the guest curator of the International Film Festival Breda where I was looking after him as the guest service coordinator. (Yes, I only put this in so I’d look more interesting!)
The final museum we visited in The Hague was Escher in het Paleis. You’re probably very familiar with the clever, mind-bending drawings by M.C. Escher (1898-1972), but did you know that he was Dutch? Well, I didn’t! If you’re going to The Hague you should definitely go to this permanent exhibition. It is actually two exhibitions in one as it’s housed in the former winter palace of the Queen Mother Emma of the Netherlands and there are signs in each room telling you about its function in the past. The building is wonderfully restored, but I just didn’t get the giant chandeliers by artist Hans van Bentem. They didn’t seem to have any relation to the building and just looked rather kitsch and comical to me. The museum’s top floor has many interactive installations for visitors to play with.
Escher’s most popular drawings are probably those of his deceptive staircases. They seem to be never-ending, but when you look closely you notice that their continuation isn’t possible at all! Here is one of such drawings and below Escher’s inspiration for them: the staircase in his old school. I’m sure these drawings also inspired J.K. Rowling when she designed the famous Hogwarts Staircase!
Back in London I was invited by Anton from Style Division to go see a quirky exhibition called Air Fresheners of the Apocalypse, featuring air refresheners with unique illustrations by 10 different artists and apocalyptic scents by flavour-based artists Bompas & Parr. You can read about this curious event on Anton’s website.
I spent one spring afternoon in the Wellcome Institute to see their fantastic show Forensics: The Anatomy of Crime that explored the history and art of forensic medicine. In the gallery upstairs I went to see The Institute of Sexology (until 20 September) which is far less sexy as one would expect, but very insightful nonetheless.
At the end of May my husband and I were invited to spend a weekend at Music Tech Fest in the city of Umeå in north Sweden. One of the museums we HAD to visit was of course Guitar – The Museum, founded by twin brothers Samuel and Michael Åhdén who have been collecting guitars since they were teenagers. Over the last decades they have collected hundreds of guitars and met many influential musicians. There seems to be a thriving rock scene in the area – the two famous rock bands Refused and Meshuggah come from Umeå – so it seems logical for such a museum to open in this part of Sweden.
On 21 June I was very lucky to enter 19 Princelet Street, just off Brick Lane in east London. Due to its fragility, this Grade II listed building is open to the public for only 10 days a year. The house was built in 1719 and has witnessed all incredible changes in the area over the last decades. One of its first inhabitants included a refugee Huguenot family who were master silk weavers. It was then later leased to a Jewish Friendly Society and also housed a synagogue. Its most famous inhabitant is the Jewish orthodox recluse and scholar David Rodinsky who lived in the attic with hardly any possessions (he slept on a mattress on the floor). When they discovered his room 11 years after he suddenly went up and left (with the porridge even still on the stove), the main question and unsolved mystery was: what happened in David Rodinsky’s Room? Evidence in the room proved he was literate in at least 15 languages, most of them dead, and was interested in Kabbala.
Of course I also went to some street art shows and events. Brockley Street Art Festival led me to a completely unknown part of London. I caught many artists painting live, chatted with most of them and had some fun moments of interaction with local residents who were all very positive about the event and were also following the map trying to find all street art works.
Stuart of the great blog Inspiring City took me to the opening of ‘Summer Time!’ an exhibition at JUSTKIDS gallery just off Brick Lane. I had never been to the gallery before, but I really liked the gritty atmosphere and wonderful colourful works on display. Typically, my favourite work (Drowned Kingdom by Ana Marietta) wasn’t colourful at all, but rather dark in tone and fantastic in theme.
At Stolen Space Gallery, also just off Brick Lane, I saw the show The Great Beyond (until 5 July) by Dutch artist Joram Roukes, who’s currently based in Los Angeles. His bright colourful collage-style oil paintings really popped off the walls of the industrial-style gallery.
I can be short about this section here as I’ve read only one (!) book this period. I know, not that impressive for a literature graduate… A 1960s East End childhood by Simon Webb is a recount of life in 1960s East End. I found it very interesting to learn more about the history of my area and also to see the parallels between the present gentrification and how the development of flats in east London during the 1960s/1970s destroyed the strong community feeling that once prevailed in the entire area.
MUSIC & DANCE
Without a doubt this last quarter’s highlight has been Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. This dance performance based on C.S. Lewis’ classic book is a fusion between mind-blowing hip hop dancers of ISH and incredible ballet dancers of the Junior Company of the Dutch National Ballet. Every aspect of this show was extraordinary: from the dancers to the costumes, video projections and lighting. But the music was the best of it all of course as this was written exclusively for the show by my hubby. The show will tour around the Netherlands in autumn and hopefully around Europe afterwards. I am definitely going to see it again! This video will show you why you should also go see it 🙂
Also Daniel Lanois at Islington Assembly Hall was quite a wonderful experience. The beautiful venue has very nice acoustics and there was a really pleasant and relaxed atmosphere that night. Opener Rocco Deluca had set the tone for the evening. It doesn’t happen that often that I wish to hear more from the opening act at concerts, but we still play Rocco’s music at home.
The concerts by cello player Oliver Coates and electronic artist Murcof & pianist Vanessa Wagner at King’s Place, London were very beautiful too and were quite the contrast to Judas Priest who I went to see in the Netherlands in June. I am a big Priest fan and the concert was definitely worth flying over the Netherlands for! You can watch some good quality footage of ‘Turbo Lover’ here:
The day before Judas Priest I saw 808 State, influential electronics music group, play live in Den Bosch, coincidentally a city near my parents. I had met one of the band members, Graham Massey, a few weeks before in Sweden and he kindly invited me for their Dutch show and agreed to do an interview with me, which will appear on this blog at one point of course!
That brings me to Music Tech Fest in Umeå in north Sweden. My husband and I were invited there, hubby to play live and me to write about it. Watch this space for my post about this groundbreaking event. Here’s some footage of the awesome collaboration between hubby (Scanner, on the right), Graham Massey (left) and Jason Singh (middle).
Yet another highlight was to see American sing-songwriter Torres live at Rough Trade East record shop. I had heard her music many times at home (my hubby produced some tracks on her album Sprinter), but to see and hear her play live is just extraordinary. She looks like a really sweet, frail girl, but when she sings, her emotions come straight from her toes and find their way directly to your soul. Watch the video below and you will see what I mean. It was amazing to see her play solo in the record shop and I can’t wait to see her with an entire rock band on her autumn tour. Make sure to check her out live!
Stay tuned for part 2 of this post which includes film recommendations and travel & restaurant tips!
In the meantime you can read my previous arts & culture wrap-ups:
First Thursdays art round-up: January 2015
Dutch Girl Does Arts & Culture February – April 2015